Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rebel Souls

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.-- 1 John 3:4-6  

John gives me trouble.  I have wrestled with him before, and I probably will again.  Obviously, sin is a rejection of and rebellion against the law of God.  Jesus was free of the sin principle, but He was also completely free of sin, living always, every moment, in harmonious accord with the Divine will. 

Lawlessness is an interesting word.  Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction ...
(2 Thessalonians 2:3).  The man of lawlessness is an antichrist, of whom John says in this First Epistle, there are many.  The lawless ones may, at times, associate themselves with the called-out ones who belong to Christ; however, they are never a part of the Body because rebellion and transgression of God's law are too much their identity.

Jesus is the opposite of lawless, yet He is the greatest revolutionary, leader of the greatest rebellion in all of history.  Whom did He rebel against?  The prince of this world.  Jesus overcame the devil, and in doing so, released us from bondage to that which had ruled over and enslaved us.  Now, the world and its dethroned, deceptive prince no longer have any authority over us.  Now we, too, are rebels, not against the Lord and His law, ... but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).    

But the reason I have such a struggle with John in his letter is that he makes it sound as though those in Christ must be always free from any imperfections.  I've met some pretty saintly, holy people, but I've never met anyone I thought was perfectly sinless.  Being in Christ, we are delivered from the weaknesses of the mind and body.  That's why the New Testament speaks of having one's mind renewed.  The Christian has a new understanding, new insight, a new way of seeing, perceiving, and interpreting the world and life.  What the Lord does not remove is our "proneness to sin", as Matthew Henry puts it.

We have a new nature.  We can't operate the way we used to operate.  There is now light that shows us the repulsiveness and malignancy of sin.  Nevertheless, we must always be wary of deceit and deception.  Delusions are all the devil really has left.  And we have to be especially aware of our own potential for self-deceit.  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).  If we do fail, though, there is always room for reconciliation, for God ... is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.



robinstarfish said...

I fought with John and John won.

I've always had trouble with the book too. It sounds too good to be true the first time through. Upon successive readings, pulling on the threads reveals some mindbending insights.

To the point I know I'll never get there. I'm just glad having my mind renewed is not just a one-time thing.

mushroom said...

That's my experience, too. I know he knows whereof he speaks, but it can be hard to believe.

Paul Griffin said...

We have a new nature. We can't operate the way we used to operate. There is now light that shows us the repulsiveness and malignancy of sin.

I am still learning what this means. I hope I will continue to learn it for the rest of my days, because it has been one of the great joys of my life.

In the midst of our pet sin, it is hard to see this "new nature" language as anything but some sort of passive-aggressive way of telling us how we're not measuring up. In reality, it should be a source of great hope, as it foretells our growing up and stepping into freedom.

This new nature is most apparent to me when old temptations return, as my resistance to those old traps I used to walk into over and over is twofold: I see with new eyes, through the alluring outer lies to the ugliness and shame that await beyond. Furthermore, I have no illusions about my own strength and can no longer lie to myself about being able to "handle" a flirtation with disaster. Don't let the enemy get so much as a toenail in the door, or he will move right in again. I take these temptations much more seriously than I once did, because I understand just how weak I am.

As you say, I am unable to operate the way I used to. It is like seeing with new eyes.

mushroom said...

Yes, I can still argue with myself that this or that doesn't make any difference, but you realize it's easier ("My yoke is easy") to be right.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning..."

I also see that to mean no one who abides in Him will stop repenting.

Those who attempt to justify anything less is indeed an anti-Christ.
We can see plenty examples of this in the teachings of Unitarian churches or other New Age influenced churches.

Excellent post, Dwaine!